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STORY NINE The Helper and the Helped 1968–1989 135 One day in the late 1960s, Nate Stoppard, scion of an old Yankee family , summarily stepped off a career path that would have guaranteed him a position as the chief executive officer (CEO) of a major company, left the big city and started an NGO over a store in New Hampshire. He was thirty-three years old. The summer before he had accepted a challenge by the pastor of his family’s church to volunteer in a hospital in Africa. He had never traveled to the third world and knew nothing about hospitals , but he had an MBA in addition to his Ivy League bachelor’s degree and figured he could help. When the summer was over he returned to his position at the company . But he was a changed man. He thought about what he had learned. He knew little about development but concluded that what Africa needed was not food or airports or factories but business management skills. A man of integrity and deeply held Christian values about charity and good works, Nate decided he could not live with himself if 136 Story Nine he did not offer to those in need something he had that could make a difference . Using his own savings, he opened his office and hired one other person. Immediately he received a small grant from his church and soon other small grants as word of his own dedication and character got around the surrounding towns. In the same African country where he’d spent his summer, he hired a fellow Christian whom he’d met there, gave him a small budget, and directed him to set up an office, register it locally, and hire two individuals who knew something about management. Gradually, staff members made contact with some small farmers. These were producers of palm oil, cocoa, or coffee. They barely made enough money to support their families, let alone invest in improvements . The staff began visiting the farmers, showing them how they could band together to form groups, share their labor, invest in some processing equipment, and do better. Stoppard’s vision of transferring business management skills to local people began to be fulfilled. Back in the United States, Stoppard went on the road to raise money, and after several years of tireless effort, his organization, called Management Tools for Africa (MTFA), had steady funding from a number of sources, including USAID. January 1989 Nate Stoppard, now in his late fifties, enters the conference room of MTFA’s U.S. headquarters and greets each of his staff by name. Almost everyone, from the receptionist to his three vice presidents (VPs), is there. It’s Monday morning and the weekly prayer meeting is about to begin. Staff are invited to attend. It is not an obligation, but most, even the non-Christians, do, not because they feel it would look bad if they did not but because they are drawn by the sincerity and commitment of the founder. They do it out of reverence for him and for what he believes. MTFA is now well established and well thought of by other development professionals and by the development assistance donor community , which supplies it with about $6 million in funding annually. The NGO has programs in nine countries, all staffed by local people, many of whom have business or management degrees. Altogether, there are 145 staff worldwide. Stoppard visits each country program annually. He does so because he believes he must meet officials and especially because he feels he must personally reinforce the morale of local staff and keep them feeling part of the MTFA family. He does not really like these field visits, finding them physically and emotionally trying. He is not by nature a gregarious person, not a glad-hander, but a soft-spoken and private man. Moreover, as much as he had tried to in the past, he has finally given up his efforts to shed his Yankee roots and patrician upbringing. He is, and has always been, uncomfortable with poor people and abhors the physical encounter with raw third world poverty—the flies, dirt, and disease, but especially its smell. Yet his dedication to helping the poor has given him the strength to put the habits and prejudices of his upbringing in brackets and learn, however awkwardly, to seem like the easy and outgoing leader that he is not. The prayer meeting over, Nate...


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